Our ears tend to prick up when we hear the words ‘luxury’ and ‘hotspot’ mentioned in the same breath. And so, when we caught wind that Stephane De Baets, the owner of the St Regis Aspen, and his stylish wife Sabrina Huls De Baets had snapped up Redstone Castle with the intent of turning the property into a cutting edge wellness destination and spa… well, you know we needed to do some digging. Situated about 40 minute from Aspen, the landmark castle has a priceless past, being the onetime hangout of folks such as Teddy Roosevelt. German model-turned-hospitality exec Huls De Baets filled us in on the couple’s plans to transform the location into a five-star spa and wellness escape. Here’s the scoop!
What’s your backstory? Where are you from and where did your career initially begin?
I’m from Germany; I grew up near the river Mosel. My grandparents had two restaurants, a Bed and Breakfast, apartments, a huge camping ground, and we made our own Riesling. As it was a small family business, we all worked since the day we walked. I started modeling at the age of 17, moved to Munich, and then London. At age 20, I joined Ford Models NY when Ford was owned by Katie Ford. Katie was married to André Balazs at the time and when I turned 30, I switched my career back to hospitality and started working with André. It was like going from mom to dad!
Tell us about those years working in hospitality in New York.
I started at The Top of the Standard, where we were building a membership club. Fun times, high stress, and lots of VIPs in the fields of music, art, fashion, sports, and politics all gathered all in one room. I did not, however, want to work in nightlife, so I switched to sales and marketing at The Standard High Line and became their VIP ambassador. I helped open The Standard East Village and started at The Mercer Hotel as their guest experience manager. Going from the 338-room Standard to a 79-room hotel was incredible. I learned so much and loved every minute of it. I had excellent mentors in all properties and wonderful team members—everyone worked so well together building an empire.
What are some invaluable lessons you learned while working under André Balazs?
André is a great friend, boss, and life coach. He’s a terrific visionary; he always managed to take all of our ideas and put them together into one brilliant one. He told me to, ‘be firm but kind.’ And my grandma always said, ‘kill people with kindness’—so I applied both! The devil is also in the detail.
Tell us about your exciting new project, taking over the historic Redstone Castle. How did it first come on your and Stephane’s radar?
Word of mouth! Friends knew we were searching for the right wellness spot. On our first tour, we brought along our five-year-old daughter Zoe who decided to wear a Disney princess dress. The then-owners said, ‘Now we cannot sell it to anyone but you—you even brought the princess!’
What will the programming at the castle look like this summer?
Five/seven day bootcamp and wellness retreats. Think: road bike, mountain bike, guided hikes, yoga, meditation, fly fishing, and horse back riding. We’ll also host culinary experiences, think tanks, and back country skiing.
What makes the castle so significant and rich in history?
It’s 120 years old and on the historic register. It was built by John Osgood, who was responsible for a lot of development in the roaring fork valley.
What’s the local area like?
It’s so very remote, yet only 45 minutes away from Aspen. It’s by the crystal river and facing gorgeous mountains. You need to see it to believe it. You have a natural hot spring nearby, and waterfalls, private hiking, biking trails, and many remote fly-fishing areas. The castle is also close to the historic Crystal Mill, built in 1892.
What do you think is the future of ‘wellness tourism’?
Everyone will want to clean their body, mind, and soul once a year. We are overloaded by tech information and that is inducing stress and taking away from our connection to the earth. We believe that we can ensure growing old nicely if we take action on lifestyle early. It is all about living healthy and happy.
What is your overall vision for the property?
Eventually we plan on turning the castle into the first US flagship location of the RAKxa Medical Wellness Spa!
What will ensure the property stands out as a wellness/restorative destination?
Applying proven techniques to ensure positive transformation.
Who and what always inspires you when it comes to conceptualizing a new experience like this?
Guest experience and blending into the natural environment.
If you had to sum up a visit to Redstone Castle in one sentence, what would it be?
Disconnecting from inner stress and reconnecting with nature.